By Mindee Jorgensen
Music is my life and drumming is my passion. Since the beginning of my musical journey 18 years ago, I have continuously been in bands, pushing myself to get better. There is no doubt in my mind that drumming will be a part of my life forever. It is a necessary outlet for anger and depression, and it gives me energy, motivation, and purpose.
Despite my talents, I'm never fully satisfied with myself. I always feel I could be better and work harder. I've always felt unprepared to share my creativity, and undeserving of attention or financial rewards. Although I have consistently been playing in bands, I keep my musical creations well guarded. It's that self-doubt that each artist has to deal with and overcome before they can completely express themselves to the world. It has kept me from reaching my full potential for so long.
However, 2015 was the year that I overcame self-doubt and took an opportunity that pushed me to accept myself and my abilities. I had the chance to share my talents internationally. I pushed fear of failure aside and traveled the world playing on the drums.
I moved to Los Angeles from Iowa six years ago, which in itself was a major achievement. I had a traumatic childhood, losing my mother to suicide when I was four. I left home at 17 and have been fully supporting myself since. I also battle bipolar disorder, which adds hurdles to my life and intensifies my insecurities.
My story begins in late 2014, when I received a random message from a girl I didn't even know. She needed a live drummer to tour with her solo project Peach Kelli Pop, and our one mutual friend suggested me. The offer included a month in the US and two weeks in Japan.
I mostly live paycheck to paycheck, so instant uncertainty set in. I was struck by anxiety over how I would cover rent and if I would lose my current job. My first reaction was that I could never go on tour for that long. However, the more I thought about it, the more I realized that this was a once in a lifetime opportunity. After 18 years of experience, I was as ready as I would ever be.
So I said yes. I pushed my fears aside and committed to this adventure despite the uncertainty of my financial situation. I made the choice to believe in my ability to survive, no matter what obstacles would be placed in the path to achieving my dream.
If there is one thing in life I am good at and that I can do no matter where I am, how I feel, or how many people are watching, it’s drumming. I believe it has been my calling since childhood. I wanted to be a drummer long before I actually got the chance. I was surrounded by music as a child (my father played guitar) and the drums always spoke to me. In school band, I tried repeatedly to get in the drum section, but I was stuck on saxophone for five years. The first time I played a drum set, I knew it was my thing. Considering I grew up with a lot of strong and unstable emotions that I hardly had words for, it felt great to have this physical and creative outlet.
In most of the bands I drum with I am a major part of the song writing process. I work hard to try and develop my own unique style and the creative process is very important to me. It was different with Peach Kelli Pop. Each song was already written and recorded by Allie; it was her creation. I am there for the live show only. This was something I was not accustomed to, but it turned out to be a great learning experience that helped me grow as a musician throughout the year. It helped that the music was very catchy and fun to play.
The new year began with learning a new set of songs and recording a music video, all while still being active with my two other bands. Telling them I was leaving for six weeks was very nerve wrecking. I am very committed to my bandmates and the music we create and I didn’t want to let them down or hold them back. Thankfully, they were all very understanding and happy that I was offered such an opportunity.
When the time came to hit the road I was overwhelmed with anxiety. I felt I had so much to get done before I left. My mind was straying off to worst case scenarios. I was very emotional about leaving my pets. My boyfriend was both happy for me and bummed that I would be away so long. He tried to hide it but occasionally those feelings would come out. He would be left to care for our apartment and pets for six weeks. It was a major sacrifice he made for my happiness and I was lucky to have his support.
When the band came to pick me up for the adventure I was in tears. I am overly sentimental, especially when it comes to saying goodbye. Luckily, once we hit the road, the fears dissipated and were replaced with excitement. Touring is such a day-by-day adventure. You see a city for less than 24 hours, with new venues and houses every evening, and saying goodbye to new friends every morning. Something unexpected always comes up to test your patience.
The first night of tour, our leader Allie got food poisoning. Not a easy thing to deal with while having to drive 5 hours and play two shows the next day. She made it through like a champ though. Then, in San Francisco our van was broken into while we were in the venue playing. Luckily only one bag was snatched, but it was still an expensive fix.
Touring is hard work. It's physically and emotionally demanding. You're moving heavy gear twice a day and sitting cramped in a van for hours at a time. I was sleeping on floors, couches, and even broken air mattresses. As a drummer, I got an intense cardio workout every performance from rocking as hard as I could. I was covered in sweat every night and mostly just hoped for a shower.
This was made harder by the fact that right before we left I hurt my back. I ended up spending the first half of the tour hardly able to lift anything. It was very aggravating not being able to carry drums. Sometimes it hurt while drumming, but the adrenaline of playing live temporarily soothed the pain. Sitting in the van was rough. I felt useless. I missed my boyfriend and worried about my pets.
However, pain and sacrifice come with following your dreams and I really had an amazing, life changing experience. I saw so many new cities and old friends scattered throughout the US. I met tons of wonderful new people and discovered great bands.
While in Canada, we had time to stop by a nature reserve park, where deer and elk come up to your car and you feed them carrots. We saw bears, wolves, buffalo and wild boar. In Philadelphia, I visited an interesting museum of medical oddities. In New Orleans, we stayed with a welcoming and creative couple and I got to sleep in a room filled with handmade puppets.
All of this had a powerful impact on my own creative process. I was inspired by all of the new sights and sounds. All of the excitement and daily uncertainty kept me grounded in the moment. I began to spend my free time journaling and drawing, and my creativity kept flowing. I started writing songs for myself and let go of the anxiety that comes from worrying about others judging my work. I was constantly being inspired by the people around me.
After the month long US tour, we headed to Japan. I experienced so much in the two short weeks I was there. I met so many friendly and accommodating people who treated us like royalty. We played seven different cities and I witnessed beautiful forests, bustling markets, and awe-inspiring views.
The highlight of my entire year was visiting an ancient temple in Kyoto. Kiyomizu-dera is near the top of a mountain, surrounded by a sweet-smelling forest with breathtaking views of the city and the ocean. As I looked out upon Kyoto, I teared up. How did someone like me get here? I've seen places most people will never see in their lifetime. I experienced this feeling of accomplishment after years of dedication to music. I've been through so much in life and I felt rewarded for all the hardships I have fought through. I was overjoyed and grateful.
My 2015 adventures didn’t end there. Peach Kelli Pop asked me to tour again in the fall, this time in Europe. Another month to see new places and meet new people in a totally different part of the world.
In Denmark, a nice band we played with made sure to show us a great time. They took us to play with a liter of kittens, and then to visit Kronborg Castle. People all over Europe were welcoming and went out of their way to make sure we felt comfortable and had a good time.
All of us leveled up our driving skills in Europe. I am now a parallel parking master. We were facing some of the most intense driving and parking situations in the world. Rush hour traffic in Madrid, circling San Sebastian Spain for over two hours to find a parking spot. I actually had to stop searching, put the hazards on and run inside for sound check, and then quickly resume my parking quest. There are tiny cobblestone streets all around that we had to squeeze our giant van through, and most of the time we couldn't read any traffic signs.
Europe carved a special place in my heart, and on my face. While in Lyon France I was smacked in the face by the front door of the hotel, hard. It hit my eyebrow and I immediately started gushing blood. The two girls I was with helped me back to the room, and we iced and bandaged up the wound. I had a huge welt, a black eye, and a giant gash in my forehead. When one of the girls who was out getting coffee came back to the room she excitedly asked if we had seen all the fresh blood in the hallway. No murder, just my face. I have a permanent scar on my eyebrow now, to remind me of my European adventures.
2015 was a milestone in my life. Each day was fresh and unique. I am forever thankful to have these experiences be a part of my life.
I have grown so much as a drummer this year. I am faster and stronger. I have been influenced and inspired by so many people. My creativity has blossomed and I know myself better. I overcame many setbacks and made numerous sacrifices to get to this point in my life. I know I’m a survivor and can handle whatever may come my way. As 2015 ends, I am proud to say that I've played 115 shows in 16 different countries.
Mindee Jorgensen is a Los Angeles based musician and writer. She is currently drumming for surf punk band Peach Kelli Pop, heavy punk rock band Dangerously Sleazy, and also plays drums, guitar, and bass for electro-punk dance band Modpods. When she is not making music, she enjoys hiking, yoga, hanging out with her boyfriend, and caring for her two pet rabbits and teddy bear hamster. You can find her on Twitter @mindeejorgensen, on Facebook, on Instagram @mindianaj, or by email at Mindeejorgensen@gmail.com.